Today, I bring you an interview with Dr. Marvin Formosa, director of the International Institute on Ageing of the United Nations, Malta (INIA). But first, let’s find out how the issue of population aging was first introduced into the agenda of the United Nations, and why the UN body with focus on aging is located in Malta. Every story has a point where it begins.
Malta was the first to recognise aging as an international problem
There is a long list of philosophers who have tried to understand aging on both an individual and social level. There is another long list of scientists who have been increasingly improving our knowledge of aging as a set of biological processes in our body. And there have been certain moments in time when humanity has made crucial steps towards a better future for everyone. One of these steps was the recognition that aging was a matter of international concern.
The matter was successfully brought to the attention of the United Nations by the Government of Malta in 1968. Interest in this topic generated by Malta led to a number of conferences at a regional level, aimed at analysing the situation and preparing a report on population changes in different parts of the globe.
In nearly a decade, the nature of data received resulted in the decision to hold the very first World Assembly on Aging, which took place in Vienna, Austria, in 1982. This Assembly brought together more than one thousand participants from 124 member states. Both international bodies as well as non-governmental organisations have sent their representatives to help elaborate the first ever International Plan of Action on Aging (also known as the Vienna Plan on Aging).
This first strategic document made clear the economic and social consequences of population aging and provided guidance to the member states on how to adapt to the growing needs of older people. The need for a coordination and education center on the problems of aging also became evident; this is why the UN Economic and Social Council recommended to the UN leaders that they establish the International Institute on Aging.
Malta becomes the UN International Institute on Ageing
Due to the role that Malta has played in the promotion of this important matter, in October 1987, the United Nations signed an official agreement with the Government of Malta to found a new specialised body under the auspices of the United Nations.
The International Institute on Ageing (INIA) was inaugurated on 15th April, 1988 by Mr. Javier Perez de Cuellar who served as the Secretary-General of the United Nations during that period. The main activities of the Institute include multi-disciplinary education and training in specific areas related to aging, as well as data collection, information exchange, technical co-operation as well as research and publications.
Close international cooperation allows the Institute to organise multiple “in situ” education programs to analyse local socio-economic conditions and needs of the elderly in both developed and developing countries, facilitate knowledge dissemination, and hence foster the development of evidence-based policy and action plans on aging.
To date, more than 3000 specialists from all over the world have participated in the Malta international education programs such as the School on Gerontology and Geriatrics. The changes related to population aging our society is going through require all stakeholders to have a systemic vision on the issue in order to make wise decisions.
This is why we at LEAF/Lifespan.io decided that I should attend the closest “in situ” training program by INIA held in Saint-Petersburg, Russia, on April 10-15, and then share my knowledge and impressions with the team – and also with the community.
I took the opportunity during the conference to interview Dr. Marvin Formosa, the director of the International Institute on Ageing, United Nations – Malta (INIA).